DAVID HOROWITZ thinks Indians should not be on reservations, but we should join the greater American society instead. After his "Take Back America" speech at Villanova University (Feb. 21), Horowitz suggested further that the notion of Indians as independent nations and cultures is harmful to us, and even anti-American.
Suzan Harjo (Cheyenne), columnist for Indian Country Today, seemed totally offended. In "Taking Back America: David Horowitz on (and on and on) Indians," (May 20), Harjo disdains Horowitz’s view as insensitive and inaccurate.
But Harjo never addressed reservations. Her article misses the target completely, and therefore is a fairly useless indulgence. I must continue the conversation where she got off.
Is Horowitz wrong? Does Indian separatism keep Indians in miserable dependency? What does Horowitz really mean when he said, "If you really care about Indian people you will want to get them off the reservation and into the American economy"?
Well, Indians love being Indian. Maybe that’s our ‘problem.’ Plus, we faced near extinction in the past, and that makes us more sensitive. Separatism is our tradition. Today, intermarriage is probably our worst enemy, making steady, silent progress each generation.
Reservations have helped preserve us, up to this point in our history. There is much less intermarriage in such an environment. But, with the encroachment of international gaming on reservations, our "separate nations" may indeed cause our final crisis.
National Indian census figures change constantly, as new tribes suddenly get "federal recognition," for the sake of casino opportunities. The old tribes continually lower the blood quantum required for membership in their specific tribes, for the sake of political strength from the added members.
Comanches just did it, to my outrage and dismay. In February, 2002, my tribe voted 969/360 to lower the blood quantum from one quarter to one eighth. This way we have more "Comanches" and more political "strength." I think the move is a road to cultural suicide. In time, being Indian will mean simply membership in a social club for white people.
But the reservations themselves are based on historical law. We earned those reservation lands with our blood and lives. Our fathers’ bones are buried on them. They are sacred places to us. This in itself is not socially degenerative.
And the U.S. government has never fully honored those treaties. Even now, the Bureau of Indian Affairs still can’t account for over $15 billion lost in trust funds and unpaid royalties for land use. Might we have done better had those who made the treaties with us actually honored them?
But, there’s no denying reservations are based on racial distinction. They were designed to keep Indians together, separated from whites. (Of course, a non-Indian can always marry a reservation Indian, and take advantage, like Elsie Meeks’ husband and father did. In a way, the social advancement Horowitz wants for Indians might be better achieved if more white people did precisely what James Meeks did. For sure, there’ll be more intermarriage when all Indians move off the reservations.)
Horowitz equates reservations with separatism and the related ills of poverty, and misery. This is Indian identity on the reservations, and that Indian identity therefore is something to end. The reservation Indian identity is "absolute squalor and alcoholism," said Horowitz.
This whole peculiar predicament of the American Indian was well noted by Morris Udall back in 1965. In a speech on "American Indians and Civil Rights," given at American Unversity, Udall observed: "The Negro and his defenders [Horowitz being a life-long champion] look to the time that the Negro will be assimilated in white society and all barriers and distinction will seem to disappear. Not so with the Indian. The one big thing the Indian possesses is his pride in being an Indian. He doesn’t wish to be other than an Indian."
"The Indian problem is singular to the Indian. He…regards non-Indians as foreigners. He does not identify with other disadvantaged groups, not with Negroes, not with the various immigrant or other groups, not with the religious minorities."
But I would separate the love of one’s race from the idea that it causes one social problems. Yet, are Indians capable of self-preservation off our historical, legally appointed homelands? Is the white market place Indian-friendly?
It’s hard to tell, since Indians really don’t want to be there. The solution then is for Indians to develop economic solvency precisely as independent "nations." I call for statehood, within America. Or better, I call for a corporate model of tribal operations. This way Indians can be Indians, and join the American economy.